Sunday, February 17, 2013
I along with my better half Amrita visited Andaman in the second week of this February. We had a wonderful time there and enjoyed the 8 days of our stay. I had planned the whole trip well in advance with lots of information from different travel sites. With God's grace we hadn't faced any uncomfortable surprises. Actually everything turned out to be better than our expectations.
Our flight from Kolkata to Port Blair took off on time. Since both us were tired and had not slept the previous night in last minute planning, we took a short nap and then woke up when our flight was approaching the islands. The clear blue waters were visible from the flight itself and it was an unbelievable scene. We landed at Veer Savarkar Airport, Port Blair within 2 hrs @ 1.30 pm on sunday.
Port Blair is a small town with clean roads, with so many options to stay that fit to every budget.. We took a Auto from the airport to the hotel - Andaman Residency at Gol bazzar which we had pre-booked as it was the peak time, just 6kms away from the airport. But it won't be difficult to find a room even after arriving here.
As the sun was at his best we were really getting worried if we have chosen the right destination indeed. To our surprise the hotel staff shifted us to a Luxury room followed by a welcome drink at the hotel which really refreshed our moods. The room was neat and tidy and very much spacious.
We quickly freshened and had a lunch at the hotel itself. By the time we came out, it was already 4 PM. From there we took an auto to reach Directorate of shipping to book tickets for Neil Island but the govt offices remains closed on Sunday. From there we took the same auto to reach Cellular jail at 4:15 PM. The closing time for cellular jail is 5 PM but they stop selling the entry tickets at 4:15 PM (I have never seen this information in any of the sites while my research). So I missed the jail by a minute however latter when I visited the jail I came to know that 45 minutes for the jail is to less.
We waited at the Saheed Park which is just beside the Cellular jail until the tickets for light and sound show starts selling. The ticket for light and sound show starts at 5:15 PM for 6 PM show for which a long Q starts from 4 PM itself (shorter Q for girls). However there are 500 tickets sold each day so getting a ticket is not a problem unless you are unlucky. The show starts at 6pm, it throws a light on the historical pre independence days with moving voices of Om Puri and others.. There are different tickets for memorial visit and light and sound show. There is no seating arrangement as such. So you will have to rush and grab a seat or else sit on the pavement. Apart from that, lot of mosquitoes around, so make sure you carry enough mosquito repellents. The show ended at 7 PM we went to Abardeen bazzar to do some shopping and most importantly to take an umbrella, we were back to our hotel by 8:00 PM.
We had our dinner at the hotel itself as we liked the food there.
The next day plan was a standard 3 island (Viper, Ross and North Bay) visit from Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex
After our breakfast we reached Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex for the 3 island trip, which is a big complex built after tsunami destroyed the previous one. The trip starts at 8:30 am and ends at 5pm, Complimentary lunch (veg biryani) is provided by the tour operator. Here many agents try to sell us tickets for all possible water sports at North Bay saying that we cannot buy the tickets on the island(which is not true). I was interested in rides as I had already done few of them at Goa. But when you are on a honeymoon trip, you should always make sure that your love is also in her comfortable zone and so the plan was dropped for now.
The boarding point for all the ferries remains the same which makes it a horrible mess. There is absolutely no system no queue and nobody to guide you which ferry to board. It was almost a stampede kind of situation. The Govt ferries are absolutely dilapidated and have no safety measures. I have great doubt if they are following any of the regulations. After boarding the boat, it waited for more than 30 minutes to fill in with correct number of tourists which was so frustrating with the ferry continuously in motion due to waves, people started to move out of the ferry due to the sea sickness. There was just another couple who looks like are on a honeymoon.
The First Island was the Viper Island, The Britishers used to harbour convicts here. The first jail was constructed here which was abandoned after the construction of Cellular Jail. It has a gallows atop a hillock, where condemned prisoners were hanged. Sher Ali, who killed Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India in 1872, was also hanged here. There is nothing as such to see here, only the gallows atop can be seen which is more or less just another old building with nothing that can be traced about the facts of it as a gallows. Here we became friends with the other couple (Abhijet & Ruchi) while taking snaps. There is one famous saying:
“A friend in need is a friend indeed”
Next we stopped by Ross Island… Once the seat of British power and capital of these Islands, the place is in ruins now of old buildings like Ballroom, Chief Commissioner's House, Govt. House, Church, Hospital, Bakery, Press, Swimming Pool and Troop Barracks, all in dilapidated condition, reminiscent of the old British regime with fresh signboards which show that it must have been a neatly planned city! One wonders what it was really like and it was interesting to see some old ross island pictures in the museum later on. The island is full of trees and you can find beautiful deers and peacocks all around. The best thing which we loved about the island was the trees let the picture speak…
Ross island consist of a small canteen, as we are very fond of non-vegetarian food, we took chicken 65 from the canteen along with some cold drinks. After a quick 1hour trip we were back to the ferry
North Bay (light house & ISLAND can be seen on the backside of Rs20note) was about an hour’s ride, on the way the lunch was served consisting of veg briyani. The ferries stop at a distance from the island in order to protect the corals. Then you have to jump off to smaller glass bottom boats which will take you to the island with a round of coral view. We were given a slot of 2 hours at this island and we did not know how to kill our time. The rule is that you need to board the same ferry and hence be aware of the timings. There will be multiple ferries coming to the island, hence make a note of your ferry name and be alert when they shout for return passengers. You cannot board any other ferry.
So here I was at the North Bay with nothing to do for next 2 hours. I tried to convince Amrita for water sports but she was not at all ready for any water sports activity. Seeing my situation and with more encouragement from Abhijeet & Ruchi, she finally decided to give it a try.
We did Water Sports activity consisting of Scooter ride, high speed boat ride, Sofa ride & banana ride.
After 3 hour trip we were back to the ferry to a return trip to Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex. We boarded our ferry on time, but we had to wait for more than half an hour as some fellow tourists were not done yet. So all others had to wait for them which was a bit disgusting. We reached Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex at 5 PM.
We had a great time playing in the North Bay beach. We realized after sometime that we had not used the sunscreen…but it was too late by then.
Back to the hotel and had dinner at the AFC (Andaman Fried Chicken) not KFC… The food is average at the AFC and not at all close to KFC standards. Please change the name & look of the restaurant….
The tickets for Neil Island were pre-arranged by the travel agent guy, but due to some confusion over the tickets we got our tickets at the last moment. At one time it seems like we will miss the ship for today and waste our day at port blair but luck favored and the standing tickets to board the ship was in my hands with the ship name as "pillomillow"… kind of a strange name… wonder from where does the name come from.. We were the last one to board the ship at 6:00 AM ship to Neil Island.
The hanger was up and the ship started sailing towards the open sea. We reached Neil around 8:30 AM. The beauty of Neil Island cannot be written or explained, it was simple fantabulous. The water was so clear that even our packed besleri would have failed.
We had already made the arrangements for pick-up and stay at Cocohuts at Laxmanpur (Beach #1). The ambience of the resort was so calm and quite with a private beach was simply awesome. I would recommend people to spend few days at Neil Island to do justice to its beauty.
As I am a bike lover we took a bike for rent and went straight to Bharatpur (Beach #4) for bath. The beach is near to the jetty and is having few water sports activity too.. We had a great time playing in the water.
We went back to the hotel and had lunch over there… aahhhh … Crab Masala.. Loving it…
We took rest for some time at the resort beach and then went to Laxmanpur (Beach # 2) for coral & Natural bridge. It is a small strip of land that connects the mainland to a small(3*3) island, at low tide the complete island consist of live corals at the rock pools. You can even touch few of them… but make sure that you know enough about the corals as few of them can be poisonous. Later while doing snookering I was able to recognize the corals.
While returning we took a wrong turn and end up coming out of nowhere, after wandering for some time we came to know that we need to walk at least 3 kms to reach to our vehicle. This was really frustrating and tiring to walk for such a long distance, even thought the all around beauty was awesome it doesn’t seem nicer anymore. I told Amrita to wait at half distance and I quickly rushed to the vehicle. While starting the vehicle I was not sure if we should go to the last spot for today to view the sunset as our mood was already spoiled. I picked up Amrita and started to murmur sunset.. sunset.. She told chalo… then their was no other word spoken for the next 15 minutes until we reach Laxmanpur(Beach #1)
Laxmanpur Sunset point is the west most point of the beach west of the jetty which the guesthouses are on. There are ravenous sandflies, so if you're spending any time there then take a hammock. Pretty sunsets.
The Sunset at Laxmanpur beach was not so perfect but was refreshing and had already filled our mood with enjoyment; we took snaps… a lot of snaps until the batteries dried up. But still with bike with hand we thought to explore the sunrise point today itself so that we can go directly for next day sunrise… so we went to Sitapur beach to check out the location of sunrise.
We returned to the main bazaar for dinner as we had not ordered anything at the hotel for dinner.
With a great day over we went back to hotel and had a good early sleep as we need to get up early for the sunrise.
As already planned we went to Sitapur(Beach #5) in the very early morning (5 am) for sunrise. However there were not much people around to view the sunrise. Seeing the sun coming out of the water and changing the color of sea bed as it rises above was a lovely sight and a delightful for the cameras.
While returning from the beach we did the booking for the 8.30 AM ship to Havelock.
We had breakfast while going to the jetty around 8:00 AM and had some cocunot water. The ferry “Rani changa” was on time it left Neil Island at 9.00 AM and reached Havelock at 10:30 AM
This Island is located in the lap of Mother Nature surrounded by lush greenery and pollution free environment. We had not done the return ticket’s so the first thing we did was to book return tickets to port blair.
As we had not done any booking, we took a auto for a hotel hunt stir… next day being the 14 Feb, all the hotels were full of tourists. While the tension of getting a hotel was moulding the Auto driver spoke with other auto drivers and then took us to “Gold India Resort” at Vijaynagar beach (Beach #1). The huts at the resort were really clumsy but after seeing the exotic location and the wonderful neighbourhood. I was determined to adjust with the hut for this exotic location.
The first thing we did after check-in to the hotel was to jump into the open blue sea. As nobody really present at the sea, it was like private beach for we love birds. We enjoyed at the sea for an hour and had the most fun bath we can ever imagine [;)], then had our lunch at a restaurant near to the resort.
The next thing was the Kalapathar beach. As we had already taken a vehicle we went straight to the beach. The beach was Beautiful lush white sand beach in the High tide and a Black stone beach during Low tide must visit for a secluded visit ;). not many tourists come here for honeymooners pay attention!! This beach you really don’t want to miss.
Kalapathar Beach - The Kalapathar beach is situated on one corner of Havelock Island. You have to travel along the Road From Beach no#3 and Beach no#5 The beach gets its name from the surrounding village called Kalapathar Village and the black rocks (Kalapathar Rocks) that adorn the coastline here. The emerald seas, the tropical forests on one side of the road(Kalapathar Rocks) the coastline,and on other side the silken smooth silver sands and the sheer solitude make this beach a great place to relax.
We had a wonderful time at the different beaches of Kalapathar beach I can really say Kalapathar rocks, but I do have my own reasons. Need to make your own special moments.
We came back to room and while my lov was sleeping I was thinking how to make tomorrows day special, and the phone started ringing…… It was Abhjeet.
In the evening we met and had a great time all together in the mean time we planned for Elephant beach in the morning followed by Radhanagar beach in the evening.
We had dinner at a resturant “boudi’s kitchen”, The food was so higinic and tasty that we plannd to have all our meals at the resturant inspite of it being 7 kms away from the resort
We took a speed boat which took us to Elephant beach in no time. The ride was awesome and thrilling. The Elephant beach was nice beach with most of them being the couples the beach seems like a pool party. Love the place most with the water being so clear and blue. We also did snokelling over here.
Elephant Beach is further north from Radhanagar and is popular with Indian tourists. The shoreline here was largely swept away by the 2004 tsunami and the beach is a fraction of what it used to be; however, the coral here is probably the best on the island, making this an excellent spot for snorkeling. It's reachable on foot from Beach #7 or by fishing boat from the east side of the island; many resorts arrange snorkeling and diving trips here. A path to the beach starts from the road to Radhanagar — look for a dip in the road on a curve where there will usually be a few motorbikes parked. Several paths head off from this point, ask around for the correct one. If you choose to trek alone through the forest then stick to broad path since there are forks along the way. The walk is about 30 minutes at an easy pace with dry weather. Since the tsunami, the path ends in an expanse of un-inviting looking swampy water. Rather than attempting to go around, wade straight through it — the beach is only 100 meters straight ahead, the water is rarely above knee-height and the ground is solid. As you enter the swamp, you would see a small red board ahead, to your left; bear towards it. Wear sandals when crossing to avoid sharp shells. Note: During high tide, water may be a foot deeper in last 20 feet or so. While snorkeling, keep an eye out for the glass-bottom boats. If trek and get to the beach and are tired to trek back an option would be to take a boat ride from there to Jetty , normally they charge Rs 100 per person, only challenge is finding someone who is willing to take you and then take an Auto ride for Rs 100 again to the point where the vehicle is parked.
-- You can do snorkelling
-- Glass Bottom Boat ride
-- Speed boat ride
Scuba diving - If you dont do this in Havelock then you have missed a lot..
There are no water activities here.. but the beach is one of the amazing beaches i have seen till now.. we spend around 3-4 hours in the morning here.. Then we returned at the lunch time
We had lunch at the resturant and returned to our resort for some rest as we were dead tired. I passed my time sleeping at the beach, with the breeze touching my face I slept instantly.
Woke up at 4 for Radhanagar beach.
Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7) is the most beautiful on the island and was rated as the best in Asia by Time in 2004. Gorgeous, silky white sand backed by a forest that provides welcome shade looks out over turquoise water, some stretches with a sandy bottom good for swimming and some with excellent coral reefs that are great for snorkeling – a great combination indeed. Sunsets here are often spectacular and it's a popular time to be at the beach, but be careful not to miss the last trucks back if you're not staying here. A man with an elephant walks through the forest occasionally, offering rides for a fee. Buses run throughout the day until sunset, as do auto-rickshaws and shared 4 wheel-drive trucks. There are a few food shacks where the road hits the beach, all of which rent snorkels and fins..
After the sunset we went straight for dinner and slept early.
We woke early to view the sunrise which can be seen from our resort. We had a photo session at the beach while the sun started to spread its light.
We reached at the Jetty at 8:45 AM
The ship ”Bambooka” Reached port blair by 12 pm.
We took a Auto and went to a hotel at Aberdeen bazar.
We hired a vehicle and started our city tour:
Chatham Island :It has a Saw Mill lying on the tiny island connected by a bridge over a stretch of sea-water. This Saw Mill is one of the biggest and oldest in Asia. The Island - Mainland harbour is also here. The other harbour is Haddo, which is nearby.
Mini Zoo: Mini Zoo Situated at Haddo (Delanipur - Chatham road), it houses some of the rare species of endemic birds and animals found in these islands.
Anthropological Museum: This museum near Directorate of Tourism, Port Blair depicts the life of the Paleolithic Islanders. It also houses the models of the aborigines and their tools. Closed on Mondays and holidays.
Cellular Jail: Cellular Jail, goes down in the pages of history as a jail that witnessed the torturous killings of the freedom fighters. The Jails gets its name owing to its cellular design. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose has hoisted the tri-color flag to proclaim Independence on 30th December 1943 at a place near this National memorial. This jail has a Light and sound show which is a tribute to the martyrs of the heroic freedom struggle. Some more sightseeing attraction at the jail is an Art gallery and a Photo gallery which are open on all days except Monday.
Samudrika: Situated opposite to Andaman Teal House, Delanipur this museum is meant to create awareness on various aspects of oceanic environment. A good collection of shells, corals and a few species of colourful fishes found in these islands are on display
On the way to Wandoor, about 15 km away from Port Blair city lays the Sippighat Farm.
Sprawling over an area of 80 acres is a Government farm. Research & Development programmes for cultivation of spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and pepper are conducted here. Research and Demonstration farm of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) is nearby.
This is a 30 min drive on road to Wandoor and then a 45 min ferry ride to Jolly buoy
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor is at a distance of 29 Kms. from Port Blair covering an area of 281.5 Sq.Kms. This Marine Park made-up of open sea, creeks and 15 small and large islands, is one of the best found anywhere in the world. Viewing of rare corals and underwater marine life through glass bottom boats,SCUBA diving and Snorkelling are a lifetime experience for anyone.
Private ferry operators arrange conducted tour to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park from Wandoor. Charges for boat journey to the park is Rs. 550/- per head. One needs to take a permit (issued by the Forest Department), and the boat ticket (from private boat operators) available at the Reception Counter of Directorate of Tourism, Port Blair from a Single Window before proceeding to Wandoor. The boat charges are inclusive of ferry charges, glass-bottom boat, and charges at the park, snorkeling equipment, life-jacket and guide-fee. Tourists are allowed to spend 3 ½ hours in Jolly Buoy Island or Red Skin Island as a part of conducted tours.
Generally, from December to May, tourists are taken to Jolly Buoy Island and from May to November to Red Skin Island. Timing: 9.00 AM to Jolly Buoy Island, 10.00 AM to Red Skin Island. Camera Charge: Rs. 25/-. It is advised to take packed lunch and water before proceeding to the Marine National Park. Closed on Mondays. Tourist Coaches are available from Andaman Teal House to Wandoor. Regular bus services are also operated from Bus Terminus to Wandoor.
We also visited Wondoor beach which is further 2 kms from Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.
Next was the Chidiya Tapu, the southernmost tip of South Andaman. The lush green mangroves, forest cover with numerous chirping birds and the Sylvan Sands and Munda pahar beaches make it an ideal picnic site. The forest guesthouse situated on top of a hillock provides a fabulous view of isolated islands, submerged corals and the breath-taking sunset
In the morning we went to Corbyn's Cove, One of the most picturesque sea-beaches, it is ideal for sea bathing and sun-basking. The Waves Restaurant, The Peerless Resort nearby and the Hornbill Nest Guest House at a stone's throw, provide a kaleidoscopic view of the blue water front
Next was Fisheries Museum: Situated near Andaman Water Sports Complex, it exhibits species of marine life peculiar to the islands and found in the Indo-Pacific and the Bay of Bengal. Closed on Mondays and holidays.
With this I ended my trip to Andaman.
Wanted to add that Andaman consist of the most scenic and wonderful beaches that I have seen in my life time…..
Thanks to Abhijeet & Ruchi to help me in convincing my love Amrita for the Water sports Activity at North Bay & Trip to Elephant beach at Havelock to make the trip as my most memorizing trip in my life.
The beaches in Andaman are so calm and safe that even a 4 year old child or a senior sitizen
can enjoy the water without any fear or difficulties.
Posted by Ujjal Mahanti